On Wednesday, Mobileye announced their plan to launch a fleet of 100 Level 4 autonomous cars to be tested throughout the U.S., Europe, and Israel. This news came just one day after Intel’s $15.3 billion purchase of Mobileye was complete. We spoke with eAutoLease CEO Zoriy Birenboym and got his take on what this plan means for the auto industry.
“Consumers are not ready to give up driving their own car,” Birenboym said of fully autonomous cars. “I don’t think that we’re going to be seeing autonomous driving anytime soon. [Consumers] are not ready to give up the feel of the steering wheel, the feel of the engine, and so on.” Birenboym seems to believe there’s some driving enthusiasm in all of us and we just aren’t ready to hand the reigns over to a computer quite yet.
Then why would Intel have bought Mobileye? Birenboym thinks that cars are not the main reason for the big purchase. “I think Intel just bought Mobileye for military and government purposes.” In regards to mapping, he said mapping data could be used for the military “in helicopters and planes. I’m sure there’s a wider spectrum [for autonomous car mapping], not just for cars.”
“I do not see that society is ready for autonomous driving. They launch this media that they bought this company and that they’re going to use it for cars. I do not think that cars are their angle,” said Birenboym. “I’m sure that there’s more to it than this. I’m not sure that Mobileye is going after the auto industry. I’m sure that they’re going to perfect the technology and I’m more than certain that the first people in line for stuff like this is going to be the military and some private contracting.”
One of the mysteries in Mobileye’s press release announcing this plan was what cars they’re going to use. Birenboym thinks “they’re going to experiment with low-end vehicles to cut cost. I’m not sure if the high-end vehicles will be happy letting them test that.”
Since multiple carmakers like Tesla and Volvo already have a foot in the door with proprietary self-driving car tech, we asked if they need to be worried about what Mobileye has coming. “I don’t think they should be worried,” said Birenboym. “Realistically, there’s enough business for everybody.”
We asked Birenboym how legislation plays into Mobileye’s plan and what challenges laws could present. “It’s going to be harder for them to test this in America,” Bienboym said sighting American legislation regarding insurance and safety. “In Israel and in European countries, the laws are different.”
Since it was clear that Birenboym didn’t think fully autonomous cars would be ready for the market in the near future, we asked him when it will be ready. “Realistically, 20 to 30 years before we’re ready,” he said. He believes autonomous cars will impact his own leasing business “not anytime soon. Everybody’s trying to get ahead of the curve, but we’re still far, far away from [fully autonomous cars]”
Is Birenboym right or is the autonomous revolution right around the corner?